A study has demonstrated humans commonly use a sing-song cadence similar to that used towards babies when speaking to dogs – but only puppies, not adult dogs, respond to it.

The research found puppies were highly reactive to dog-directed speech, with pitch a key factor modulating their behaviour. Image © Happy monkey / Fotolia.
The research found puppies were highly reactive to dog-directed speech, with pitch a key factor modulating their behaviour. Image © Happy monkey / Fotolia.

The research was carried out by scientists in France, the UK and the US and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B as “Dog-directed speech: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it?

Puppy talk

Lead author Nicolas Mathevon, from the University of Lyon at Saint-Étienne in France, said pet-directed speech, or “puppy-talk”, is extremely common and strikingly similar to human infant-directed speech, or “baby-talk”, employing a higher vocal pitch and slower tempo to engage an infant’s attention.

The authors recorded adult participants speaking in front of 30 pictures of puppies (younger than one year), 30 adult dogs (1 to 8 years old) and 30 old dogs (more than 8 years old) and analysed the quality of their speech. Each of the 30 female participants spoke the same phrases in puppy-talk and normal speech.

Playback

Scientists then performed playback experiments to assess dogs’ reaction to dog-directed speech compared with normal speech.

They found human speakers used dog-directed speech with dogs of all ages and the acoustic structure was mostly independent of dog age, except for sound pitch, which was relatively higher when communicating with puppies.

Playback demonstrated, in the absence of other non-auditory cues, puppies were highly reactive to dog-directed speech and pitch was a key factor modulating their behaviour, suggesting this speech register has a functional value in young dogs.

Conversely, older dogs did not react differentially to dog-directed speech compared with normal speech. The fact speakers continue to use dog-directed with older dogs suggests it may mainly be a spontaneous attempt to facilitate interactions with non-verbal listeners.

View your activity >

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
avatar

wpDiscuz

related content

The UK’s largest group of independent practices has announced it has put well-being at the top of its agenda for 2017.

Staff at a Lincolnshire practice have made a clean sweep in collecting all five “outstanding” awards open to it under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.

Two vets are going the extra mile – and then some – in aid of animal welfare by running 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days.

4 mins

Study establishes gun dog breeds, such as retrievers, are straining their locomotor systems by carrying shot game back to their owners.

3 mins

Latest figures from The Kennel Club show brachycephalic breeds now occupy three of the UK’s top six pedigree registration positions.

2 mins

A memorial service for veterinary surgeon and former RCVS president Bob Michell will be held on Friday 10 March.

2 mins